Belgrade (dpa) – Federal Foreign Minister Heiko Maas has spoken out against a large-scale planned purchase of a Russian vaccine for immunization against Covid-19.
At the moment, “media coverage of the 30 million vaccine doses from Russia – when they come – appears to be on the high side,” the SPD politician said on Friday during a visit to the Serbian capital Belgrade. In addition, the Russian vaccine Sputnik V must first be approved in the EU.
During a joint press conference with Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic, Maas responded to an action by Saxon Prime Minister Michael Kretschmer (CDU). On Thursday, after speaking with Russian Health Minister Mikhail Muraschko, he said Germany wanted to buy 30 million doses of the Russian vaccine Sputnik V, on the condition that the European Medicines Agency (EMA) approves it.
Maas was not very impressed by this in Belgrade. The number of cans is “not quite in proportion (…) to what we already produce in Germany”. He pointed out that the Biontech plant in Marburg should produce 60 million doses of vaccine per month in the future. The minister also mentioned delivery problems with previous vaccine purchases. “We know that regardless of manufacturer, the delivery of vaccine doses is not always in line with what was previously announced,” he said.
In the candidate country of the EU Serbia, Sputnik V has been administered since the turn of the year, together with the ‘western’ vaccines from Biontech-Pfizer and Astrazeneca, as well as the Chinese Sinopharm. The Balkan country is successful in this. So far, 27 percent of the population has received a first vaccination, 18 percent has been fully vaccinated. In the country with a population of just under seven million, the number of corona virus infections is now decreasing. The occupancy rate in hospitals and intensive care units is also declining.
As Vucic explained at the press conference, Sinopharm is the most widely used vaccine in its country, ahead of Biontech-Pfizer’s drug. The manufacturers of both products strictly adhere to the agreed delivery times. “You can’t always say that about the others, but I don’t want to comment on that,” he added.
Maas completed a two-day trip in the Balkans. In Pristina on Thursday, he spoke with the new leadership of Kosovo, which had emerged from the parliamentary elections in February. In talks with President Vjosa Osmani and Prime Minister Albin Kurti, as well as Vucic in Belgrade, he discussed the currently stalled dialogue that should lead to normalization of relations between Serbia and its former southern province.
Inhabited mainly by Albanians, Kosovo divorced in 1999 after a NATO intervention from Serbia and was declared independent in 2008. Serbia has not recognized this to this day and continues to claim state territory recognized by Germany and most other EU countries, but not, for example, Spain, Greece, Russia or China.
In Belgrade, Maas stated that it was time to conclude the dialogue on the basis of what had been achieved so far. Ultimately, it was the results that counted. “We are ready to continue the dialogue and approach it constructively,” said Vucic. Next week, Vucic and Kurti will travel to Brussels to gauge the modalities of new talks at EU headquarters. A meeting of the two politicians is not planned.